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Wednesday, 4 December, 2002, 21:32 GMT
US urges 'aggressive' Iraq inspections
Iraqi soldier looks at disabled anti-aircraft battery at the Muthanna plant
Monitors visited former chemical and nuclear plants
UN weapons inspectors should carry out more aggressive searches by running multiple, simultaneous checks, the White House has said.

There are signs that the US is trying to build up pressure on Baghdad ahead of a Sunday deadline for it to submit a report of all of its weapons programmes.


We want to make certain the inspections are aggressive enough to be able to ascertain the facts

Ari Fleischer,
White House spokesman
Washington is also insisting that the UN Security Council further restricts the list of goods Iraq is allowed to export under the oil-for-food programme, before extending it for another six months.

Also on Wednesday, Iraq accused the arms inspectors of spying for the United States and Israel "to provide better circumstances and more precise information for a coming aggression".

Earlier, US President George W Bush said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein did not appear "anxious to comply" with UN disarmament demands.

His comments came as inspectors checked two sites which featured in Saddam Hussein's past chemical weapons and nuclear programmes.

Iraqi criticism

Inspectors spent about four hours visiting a former chemical weapons plant at Muthanna, 70 kilometres (40 miles) north-west of Baghdad.

By Iraq's own admission, Muthanna produced 4,000 tons of chemical warfare agents including mustard gas and sarin a year until it was demolished by previous UN inspectors in the 1990s.

Another team spent five hours at the former nuclear facility at Tuwaitha - just south of the capital - where several tons of uranium have been under seal since 1998.

Spokesman Ari Fleischer said the White House was keen to make sure there were enough inspectors to do multiple searches at the same time.

"We want to make certain that they [the inspections] are aggressive enough to be able to ascertain the facts in the face of an adversary who in the past did everything in his power to hide the facts," Mr Fleischer told reporters.

On Wednesday, the Iraqi Government made its first criticism of the inspectors, saying the visit to the Sijood palace on Tuesday raised questions about the inspectors' objectivity.

Iraqi Vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan said inspectors were "spying for the CIA and Mossad together" - the US and Israeli intelligence services.

He said the visit to the palace amounted to "provocation" intended to trigger resistance on the Iraqi side, and thus a pretext to claim a "material breach" of UN resolution 1441.

Diplomatic push

Baghdad also dismissed the Iraq human rights dossier published by the British Government on Monday as "lies".

Iraq has said its declaration to the UN will contain new elements but insists there are no weapons of mass destruction in the country.

US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
Wolfowitz: US has support of strong coalition

But on Tuesday, the US defence secretary dismissed Iraqi claims, saying: "Any country on the face of the earth with an active intelligence programme knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction."

The US is asking the Security Council to extend its humanitarian programme in Iraq for only two weeks - instead of the usual six months.

Washington wants to add dozens of items to a list of goods which cannot be exported to Iraq under the oil-for-food plan.

These include products which the US says can be used both in civilian and military activities.

US officials have continued their diplomatic efforts to garner international support in the event of a war in Iraq.

Turkish confusion

Speaking at Nato headquarters on Wednesday, US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said America already had the backing of a very strong coalition if military action became necessary.

He was in Brussels after a visit to Turkey, where he held talks with senior members of the new government.

Mr Wolfowitz said the US would invest millions of dollars in military bases in Turkey in readiness for a possible conflict with Iraq.

But the Turkish foreign minister has said his country made no firm commitment.

Iraq faces US-led military action in the event of a serious breach of its commitment to allow arms inspections.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ben Brown
"This is where Iraq used to make 4,000 tons of chemical weapons every year"
President George W Bush
"The issue is not playing hide and seek but whether Saddam Hussein has disarmed"

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04 Dec 02 | Europe
04 Dec 02 | Middle East
03 Dec 02 | Middle East
04 Dec 02 | Middle East
03 Dec 02 | Politics
03 Dec 02 | In Depth
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